Willys-Overland Jeepster

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Willys-Overland Jeepster
Type Early Crossover
Manufacturer Willys-Overland Motors
Production 1948–1950
Assembly Toledo, Ohio
Designer Brooks Stevens
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door phaeton/convertible
Layout FR layout
Engine 134.1 cu in (2.2 L) I4
148.5 cu in (2.4 L) I6
161 cu in (2.6 L) I6
Transmission 3-speed manual with overdrive[1]
Wheelbase 104 in (2,642 mm)[1]
Length 174 in (4,420 mm)[2]
Width 69 in (1,753 mm)[2]
Height 62 in (1,575 mm)[2]

The Jeepster is an automobile originally produced by Willys-Overland Motors from 1948 to 1950.[3] It was developed in hopes of filling a gap in the company's product line, crossing over from their "utilitarian" proto SUVs and trucks to the passenger automobile market. The basic model included numerous deluxe features and interior fittings in addition to a high level of standard equipment that cost extra on other automobiles. A total of almost 20,000 were manufactured.

The Jeepster name was revived in 1966 on a new model, the C-101 Jeepster Commando. American Motors (AMC), Willys-Overland's successor, removed Jeepster from the name for 1972, ending production after 1973.


After World War II, Jeep trademark owner, Willys, believed that the market for the military-type Jeep would be limited to farmers and foresters, therefore they began producing the "CJ" (or Civilian Jeep) to fill this growing segment.[citation needed] Willys began producing the Jeep Wagon and the Panel Utility in 1946,[4] and the Jeep Truck in 1947.[5]

Seeing a gap in their product lineup, Willys developed the Jeepster to crossover from their "utilitarian" trucks to the passenger automobile market. Willys-Overland lacked the machinery to form deep-drawn fenders or complicated shapes, so the vehicle had to use a simple and slab-sided design.[6][7] Industrial designer Brooks Stevens styled a line of postwar vehicles for Willys using a common platform that included the Jeep pickup and station wagon, as well as a sporty two-door open car[7] that he envisioned as a sports car for veterans of World War II.[3]

The Willys-Overland Jeepster ("VJ" internally) was introduced in April 1948,[8] and produced through 1950.[9] Some leftover models were sold under the 1951 model year.[9][10]


1948 Willys Jeepster.

The basic 1948 Jeepster included numerous deluxe features and interior fittings in addition to a high level of standard equipment that cost extra on other automobiles. These included, among many others, whitewall tires, hubcaps with bright trim rings, sun visors, deluxe steering wheel, wind wings, locking glovebox, cigar lighter, and continental tire with fabric cover.[11] The Jeepster had Willys' World War II-proven 134.2 cu in (2.2 L) straight-4 "Go Devil" engine, and plastic side curtains, but its $1,765 price was about the same as a Ford Super DeLuxe club convertible with roll-down windows, fancier styling, and a V8 engine.[3]

The car was only offered with rear-wheel drive, thus limiting its appeal with other Jeep customers.[9] Its distinctive boxy styling and performance were praised by automotive journalists.[citation needed] However, the Jeepster did not catch on with the intended market segment. Sales were also limited by sparse advertising and an insufficient dealer network.[12]

The Jeepster's engine gave 63 hp (47 kW; 64 PS), which was coupled to a 3-speed manual transmission with standard overdrive.[1] The Planadyne single transverse leaf spring independent front suspension , entire drivetrain, front end, rear suspension, steering, and four-wheel drum brakes were from the Willys Station Wagon.[1][13] The flat-topped rear fenders were taken from the Jeep truck line.[8]


The 1949 Jeepster began production with a one-model/one-engine offering. The price was lowered to $1,495, with some previously standard features returning as extra-cost options. Toward the middle of the year, an additional model was introduced, the VJ3-6, powered by Willys' new L148 Lightning six-cylinder engine.[14]


The 1950 model year saw the VJ-3 Jeepster's first styling revisions, which included a new instrument panel and redesigned front end featuring a V-shaped grille with horizontal chrome trim.[10] The car had very little standard equipment.[citation needed] Willys' L161 Lightning six-cylinder was offered in addition to the standard Kill Devil four-cylinder.[14] Model designations were dependent on production timeframe, with early 1950s four-cylinder Jeepsters given VJ-3 463 and six-cylinders VJ-3 663, changed to VJ-473 and VJ-673, respectively, for later year vehicles.[14]



A grand total of 19,132 original VJ Jeepsters were produced over three model years:[3]

  • 1948 - 10,326
  • 1949 - 2,960
  • 1950 - 5,836

See also[edit]



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